Everything I Needed to Know About Politics I Learned from Facebook

Social Media is the wave of the future. You don’t have to be a blogger or a blog follower or even a blog agnostic to recognize that the cool kids are hanging out at places like Facebook, or MySpace. Have you heard about Twitter – the pseudo instant conversation maker that mashes up web, IM and SMS into something that has become the tool of instant conversation and marketing? Twitter is heavily used by the tech web community, a typically left-of-center political demographic, and last month took the SXSW Interactive conference by storm, tripling the number of daily users from 20k to 60k in 3 days. (By the way, Dan Rather keynoted and everyone adored him like he was a god – if that gives you a good idea of the political slant of attendees).

Some people see these services as cool websites that kids and young adults play at. Smart people see them as the key to the presidency. Folks like Presidential hopeful Barack Obama have serious social media allies such as Bluestate Digital who created social media tools like My.BarackObama.com. Mitt Romney’s actions have led to a close tie with the conservative side of social media, bloggers, etc.

I’m about to make a bold statement – one that I will probably be criticized for. At the end of the day, the race for President is not going to come down to who looks tallest or who has the right message on the issues. Obviously that will play a part in securing support. However, the message to the candidates is that if you expect to win, you must embrace social media. Some might argue that all the candidates at this point are doing that, but I would say that the candidates who truly understand the grassroots movements at places like MySpace and Facebook, have an advantage over the candidates who simply look at the landscape and say, “We need to tackle that group over there” without embracing and fully endorsing that culture.

Social media is a generational thing, and the vote cannot be secured simply by speeches. Netizens probably won’t pay a lot of attention. However, Giuliani might just notice that there are over 1500 members in the Facebook group America’s Mayor, “America’s President. Giuliani 2008” and that there are 57K+ members plus in the “Anti-Hillary Clinton for President ’08” group.

James asked me to blog while he was gone because he felt like the areas where I write on Technosailor – the areas of technology and new media – intersect in an important way with politics. I think he’s on to something, though you might want me to go back home. Regardless, my postings over the next few days (which won’t be nearly as prolific as James’) will hopefully bring some of the discussions in my area of interest to bear in the political and cultural world to the forefront.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on my topics. I have pretty tough skin so feel free to attack my views or topics. I can take it. 😉

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, Science & Technology, , , , , , , , , , ,
Aaron Brazell
About Aaron Brazell
Aaron Brazell is the author of The WordPress Bible and longtime proprietor of the TechnoSailor blog. He was OTB's IT guru for years and blogged here occasionally from January 2005 to April 2007. Follow him on Twitter @technosailor.

Comments

  1. Triumph says:

    Social media is a generational thing, and the vote cannot be secured simply by speeches.

    Yes, and the generation that embraces it doesn’t vote. Ask Howard Dean.

    However, the message to the candidates is that if you expect to win, you must embrace social media.

    You should also embrace CB radio. It has about as much relevance as Twitter.

    There is a reason that the campaigns are raising millions of dollars and its not to set up myspace pages–it’s for TV ads. The Anti-Hillary has 57K Facebook members?!?! Wow, thats pretty damn impressive. You could reach three times that many people with an infomercial on the Oxygen channel at 3:00am.

  2. Yes, and the generation that embraces it doesn’t vote.

    You make my point for me, Triumph. Perhaps the generation using these tools doesn’t vote because politicians tend to be out of touch with them.

  3. Triumph says:

    Perhaps the generation using these tools doesn’t vote because politicians tend to be out of touch with them.

    I really doubt that “being in touch” is the issue. Education, demographics and income are probably more important factors for explaining turnout. Sure, socialization is important, but I am not sure how prevalent social networking tools are being used anyway.

    I have no statistics, but I would think that the number of people who actively use those technologies is a relatively small percentage to begin with. Furthermore, they probably have higher levels of income and education, making them a poor sample of “young people.”

    The whole social networking thing sounds like circa-1999 bloviating by startups hoping to get bought by google.

  4. Aaron,

    You have to presume two changes. One that the new media reaches people that hasn’t happened before and that the people it reaches change their behavior and vote. Give it 20 years and people who grew up in the social media will likely also be voting more and social media will likely be more relevant.

    In the late 1960’s, there was a sense of 18-22 year olds being more politically aware than ever before. When they lowered the voting age to 18. Nixon won in a landslide in the first election the 18 year olds could vote in.

    You have an interesting theory, but I suspect that this election isn’t the one for it. Now viral video is more likely to impact 2008. Witness Hillary’s singing of the national anthem. As the gatekeepers control on what gets disseminated is eroded, the rawer coverage of the candidates is likely to impact those who are already inclined to vote.

  5. M. Murcek says:

    On the one hand, “social networking” online is a fad, and I’d rather see less rather than more influence over the election of our leaders exerted by ANY fad. On the other hand, if politicians decide it’s a fad they must pander to, then pander they certainly shall, to our general detriment…